I See You

I sensed someone rushing up behind me as I browsed the boys' section of the local superstore in search of play clothes for my son. Startled, I turned around as a pair of arms encircled me.

“I was going on break, but I didn’t want to miss seeing you,” blurted Lisa, a checker at the store. 

My only acquaintance with Lisa has been through our interactions as she rings up my items when I shop. Over time, I have made it a habit to seek her checkout line, to call her by name, and ask about her day. 

It seems so little, yet these simple kindnesses have created enough relationship that she is comfortable hugging me and has shared with me about her vacation, her aunt’s colorful employment history, and her sadness at the death of her father. 

Why?

Because she knows that I see her. Really see her, as an individual, not simply a worker fulfilling some task I need done.

I am thankful for this relationship, and glad if it has brightened some of her days at work. At the same time, I am sad. Sad because my bond with Lisa is more the exception, rather than the rule, for me.

When I run errands, I often whiz in and out of businesses at a breakneck pace. Recently I remember giving myself a mental “pat on the back” for making 6 stops in under an hour. That efficiency was great for my overpacked schedule.

But what about the people I encountered at those stops? Did I talk with them as people? Or did I treat them as fixtures at their place of business, not much different from a cash register or a photo kiosk?

Without meaning to, I have been caught in the current of our busy culture, where it is all too easy to rush past one another. And, like many, I struggle to resist the ease of interacting with others primarily through my phone. So many people are electronically connected but personally lonely, aching to know that they are truly seen and heard. 

I’m ready to get personal. I want to connect at the heart level not only with the people I live with but also those I work and worship with. Beyond that, I long to add a little more humanity to those casual interactions I have on a daily basis.  

These thoughts aren’t unique to me. Many people comment on the way our pace and our technology are leading to isolation. The tough thing is figuring out what to do about it. It’s one thing to know the need or problem. It's another to find a solution.

I’ve decided to start small. My usual mode is to set the bar too high, to create grand plans I cannot keep, and give up when discouragement sets in. It’s an easy trap to fall into, isn’t it? So for now, I am simply trying to cultivate “the art of noticing” into the life I am already leading.

I cross paths with people as a customer or client several times a day. The mail carrier, grocery checker, desk staff at the library, school secretary, UPS delivery person, restaurant wait staff, mechanic...

There are endless opportunities to connect with and care for people in these interactions, though I have been slow to see it. So how can "the art of noticing" come into play?

By making eye contact and giving a genuine smile. Or using the first name that is so often provided on a name tag.

Through taking the time to ask how their day is going, and standing still long enough to listen. Or thanking them for their service, and being specific about any way they are especially skilled or have gone the extra mile. 

By commenting on things that must be satisfying about their job, or the challenges they may face. 

As an introvert, I don't always find it easy to break through the barrier between 'stranger' and 'acquaintance', or move from 'customer' to 'friend'. But life sure feels sweeter when I do. Maybe you've observed it too, as you've seen a face brighten when you walk through the door. The simple art of noticing can make all the difference.

It's a way to give joy to others and add meaning to our busy days. The tedium of grocery shopping and stopping at the post office can become opportunities to discover new friends. In the process, we reflect the God who is so attentive to each one of us. "I see you" can reveal the truth lonely hearts really need - "He sees you".